A recent study by CMA (Canadian Marketing Association) tells an interesting story about how many people are using Social Media and what they are using it for. 50 per cent of consumers believe that brand image is affected by content posted in social networks. 55 per cent think that the content posted impacts purchasing behaviors while 56 per cent believe that companies will shape their procedures or product offerings as a result of what’s being said on social networks. While very few people post negative comments on their own blogs, they do make comments on social media  and when the use of Sidewiki becomes more common, this propensity to comment will likely expand.  Customer Satisfaction can no longer measured by surveys and customer service metrics  alone.  A few key points from this study.

1. Consumers  post good and bad comments. Social Media is like a real time focus group.

2.Web research before buying is normal and the customers do a search beyond what the organization is offering, both good and bad comments are reviewed, and then consumers make their own decisions based on their research.

3. There appears to be a desire on the part of consumers to influence the products and services being sold AND the way the products and services are being marketed to them. See my earlier post on how Twitter is being used.

I have republished the post from the CMA below.  Please feel free to leave comments below.

Are Consumers Really Shaping Marketing through Social Media?

By Stephanie Bullock
Director, Segment Management, Direct Marketing
Canada Post Corporation

Ivana Mazon
Vice President, Client Services
FUSE Marketing Group

July 23, 2009

Members of the Canadian Marketing Association’s Integrated Marketing and Customer Experience Council sought a well-rounded view of the role of social media in today’s marketing environment; specifically, how are consumers impacting the way marketers are using social media?

Through our own social and business networks, we put forth a series of questions to marketers and consumers, asking them to define social media, how they use it and how it is impacting their purchase (or selling) behaviour.

Are consumers really abandoning brands because a blogger disliked an ad? How widespread is the “voice” of the consumer online, and how does it impact brands? And maybe more importantly, how are marketers planning to deal with this marketing shift where the brand is in the consumers’ hands (or so we are told)?

What we found was surprisingly … normal. Consumers are increasingly taking to the web to research products, follow chatter and read reviews, but they are also making final decisions based on their own experiences. And marketers, although increasingly aware of how social media might impact their brand, have [smartly] moved towards working within this new marketing world slowly and methodically.

In its purest sense “social media” is organic and essentially not controllable. Common practice seems to be to define it loosely, in that consumer-generated content and marketer initiated offers in the social “space” are a given. It is this larger definition which most respondents addressed.

To augment findings from our outreach, we additionally surveyed 1,000 consumers through an online panel — and were a bit surprised by the results. While the internet is definitely a source of information, very few of us are actually participating directly.
Key insights from consumer research

Our poll of 1,000 Canadians was conducted by the AskingCanadians™ online panel from March 27th to March 31st 2009. AskingCanadians™ is owned and operated by Delvinia Data Collection. www.delvinia.com

21 per cent of consumers say they do not participate in online social networks. Those that do participate, do so by:

  • Researching (44%)
  • Reading (36%)
  • Engaging in conversation, commenting, posting feedback (29%)
  • Creating blogs, writing articles (5%)

Graph - How do you participate in social networks online?

Consumers want companies to take heed and use their comments, postings and blogs to: (Ranked by importance to consumers.)

1. Impact or shape improvements to products & or services
2. Have a dialogue with their customers
3. Improve or protect their brand image
4. Promote their products & services
5. Acquire new customers

Graph - In your opinion, how should a company best utilize their participation in social networks?

50 per cent of consumers believe that brand image is affected by content posted in social networks. 55 per cent think that the content posted impacts purchasing behaviours while 56 per cent believe that companies will shape their procedures or product offerings as a result of what’s being said on social networks.

Graph - Which of the following do you feel are significantly affected/shaped by content posted in social networks?

Key insights from marketer poll

And what about marketers? Have the experiences of a few (i.e., Skittles’ attempt at integrating brand with social marketing channels; the backlash to Motrin from a Twitter mom not pleased with its advertising) lead marketers to funnel all their money towards managing the online space? Are they radically changing the way they market?

The answer is yes and no.

  • Many marketers have started devoting at least some resources to “listening” to chatter online and sometimes responding in an appropriate, customer-service manner. Many have assigned an administrator to listen to chatter and to respond. Others have officially set up shop in social media circles to be where their customers are (ie. Bank of America can now answer your questions online and government agencies provide updates on twitter).
  • Some marketers have made a focused effort to be where they think their audience is so as to always have a presence (Oprah and Ellen on twitter, countless fan pages on facebook).
  • A few marketers have begun to actually integrate social media into their overall marketing mix (Doritos encouraging consumer-generated-content).
  • Measuring impact is tricky and few seem to be focused on this area. Those marketers that have implemented measurement are tracking number of tweets, blog comments, key words, instances and conversations to get a pulse on their company, product, and/or services.

Media dollars are slowly shifting to the new media channels (web, mobile) to more properly reflect where consumers are spending their time and this will naturally begin to encompass the social media space. Marketers are working towards the balance of allowing consumer opinion to run freely while staying focused on continuing to consistently communicate their brand promise. And just as honing marketing skill in traditional channels has taken time, the social media aspect of marketing is worth the diligence and wait. Marketers said they recognize that “being there just for the sake of being there” isn’t going to cut-it in an era of instant access to so much information. Like digital before it, social media must be treated as another marketing channel that needs to be integrated into the mix where and how it strategically makes sense.

There is definitely an upside to the significant growth in social media. Marketers are finding it insightful and refreshing to hear what consumers are saying – social media is acting as a “focus group”. Marketers are positive about a future that allows for dialogue and believe that in many ways it can enhance their brand and give it a “face”.

Public conversation isn’t typically negative. In fact, much of it is positive and leads new consumers to your brand. (Just 1% of consumers indicated posting mostly negative comments about companies or products on social networks.) Think about the role epinions.com, tripadvisor and amazon reviews have played in recommending and motivating purchase. Good marketers are harnessing public opinion and looking for opportunities to engage with key influencers that could not have been easily found or reached just a few years ago to become brand champions and ambassadors for their company.

The bottom line for consumers and marketers: access to first-hand information has many exciting possibilities. Separating what’s meaningful and what’s not takes time and patience. The payoff, however, can be stronger brands and informed loyalists.

The Integrated Marketing and Customer Experience Council is one of eight CMA Marketing Councils – its mandate is to provide insight into the integration of traditional and new marketing communication practices in delivering a consistent and effective customer experience across all touch points.

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Adele Berenstein

Adele Berenstein is an Experienced Customer Satisfaction Executive, recently retired from a Large Global IT Organization after a long productive management career including Sales, Marketing, Services, teaching and education center management and most recently, 19 years in customer satisfaction management. She turned around divisions with customer satisfaction problems, implemented measurable improvements and management systems, and implemented programs to prevent problems from ever affecting customers.

3 Responses to “Real Facts about Social Media’s impact on Customer Satisfaction and Marketing”

  1. Mark Harris Says:

    Hi and thanks very much for sharing this, great background.

  2. Adele Says:

    Hi Mark,

    You are most welcome. I am glad the information was useful to you. I appreciate the feedback.

    Adele

  3. 10 Most Read Posts from 2009 - Customer Satisfaction/Service | Customer Satisfaction and Reputation Management Says:

    […] 1.  Real Facts about Social Media’s impact on Customer Satisfaction and Marketing […]

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